Shortness of breath is a common symptom of COVID-19. It’s important to watch for new or worsening shortness of breath or respiratory problems. Contact your health care provider immediately if you experience any changes in your breathing, as it may be a sign of COVID-19.
Shortness of breath is when you feel like you are not able to get enough air in to breathe normally or feel as though you can’t take a large enough breath.
Shortness of breath can feel like:
COVID-19 causes fluid and pus to develop in the lungs, which can lead to coughing, shortness of breath and fever.
However, shortness of breath also can be caused by serious health conditions such as:
Shortness of breath is common after intense exercise and can be an indicator of your fitness level. Other common causes of shortness of breath include:
Shortness of breath typically isn’t cause for concern when combined with a common cause like exercise or high altitude. Call your doctor when shortness of breath occurs with:
Your doctor will take a detailed medical history and history of the instances of shortness of breath from you during your appointment. Tell your doctor about each time you’ve experienced shortness of breath. Also share what triggers or conditions lead to shortness of breath. Your doctor may perform or order other diagnostic tests such as:
Shortness of breath due to COVID-19 usually begins within four to 10 days after you contract the infection. In many cases, shortness of breath does not last very long, and in other cases, it can lead to complications.
Create an action plan with your doctor. If your shortness of breath is caused by a condition such as asthma or COPD, you should create an action plan with your physician to treat or prevent shortness of breath. This could include a rescue inhaler or breathing treatments.
Exercise regularly. Exercise helps to build your lung capacity and build your tolerance for physical activity. Regular exercise can also promote weight-loss, which can improve lung function. If you aren’t sure how best to get started, ask your physician.
Quit smoking and vaping. Smoking is a leading cause of chronic respiratory lung disease, which leads to shortness of breath.
Understand the effects of altitude. If you plan to travel to an area of high altitude or live in an area of high altitude, it is important to understand how it will affect your lungs. For many, being at a high altitude causes shortness of breath.
Take your medications. If your doctor has prescribed medications to minimize the effects of shortness of breath, it is crucial to take those medications at the appropriate times. Your medication will not be as effective or effective at all if not taken as prescribed.
Avoid pollutants, extreme temperatures or other identified triggers.
Learn more about COVID-19 and how it affects specific health conditions in these printable patient education materials.
Download COVID-19 Materials